Skip to Content
Home > Wellness Resources > Health Library > Immunomodulators for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Immunomodulator medicines weaken or
Immunomodulators are used for
inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that:
Azathioprine and mercaptopurine work to keep people who have Crohn's disease in remission. They are also used to allow the person to stop using corticosteroids.footnote 1
Mercaptopurine may be able to prevent Crohn's disease from coming back after surgery. It can at least lengthen the amount of time without disease after surgery. It's likely that azathioprine works as well.footnote 1
Both azathioprine and mercaptopurine can treat and heal fistulas.footnote 1
Methotrexate works to stop symptoms of active Crohn's disease and to put the disease in remission. It can keep Crohn's disease in remission when taken long term. It is also used to help people who have Crohn's disease stop taking corticosteroids.footnote 1
Azathioprine and mercaptopurine work to stop active symptoms of ulcerative colitis. They can also be used to help people who have ulcerative colitis stop taking corticosteroids.footnote 1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor if you have:
Common side effects include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is
not available in all systems.)
These medicines can stop your immune system from fighting infection. When you are taking this medicine (and even when you have finished taking it), try not to be around people who are sick. And make sure you talk to your doctor before you get any vaccinations.
These medicines may increase your risk of getting cancer, including lymphoma.
Do not drink alcohol when you are taking these medicines. Combining alcohol with these medicines can increase your risk for liver damage.
Other immunomodulators that may be used for Crohn's disease include mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept), tacrolimus (Prograf), and thalidomide (Thalomid).
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.
Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
American Gastroenterological Association (2006). American Gastroenterological Association Institute medical position statement on corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and infliximab in inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterology, 130(3): 935–939. Also available online: http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0016-5085/PIIS0016508506000734.pdf.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerArvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
Current as ofNovember 14, 2014
Current as of:
November 14, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.